Click pic for larger version. Brought to my attention by @tripmenz
Also, have a look at this bit of mini-research I did on why we get high in the first place.
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Click pic for larger version. Brought to my attention by @tripmenz
Also, have a look at this bit of mini-research I did on why we get high in the first place.
The Dutch coalition government disagree on a great many things — much like our own, I suppose, which saw Nick Clegg go from kingmaker to skivvy overnight — but the one thing they do agree on is that coffee shops (just typed “coffeesh0ps” by mistake — force of habit!) are an embarrassment to The Netherlands and should be extirpated.
Since they can’t just get rid of them overnight, their first step is to try and ban the sale of cannabis to anyone who’s not a Dutch resident. This has already happened in a couple of towns near the borders, receiving the green light from the EU Court. The appropriate EU legislation concerning the “freedom to provide services” would normally prevent bans on trading with foreigners, but since cannabis is an illegal drug, it doesn’t count as regular “goods”, and so falls short of the scope of the law. As such, this means they can do the same across the entire country.
If this ever happens, here’s an idea about how it could easily be exploited: get a Dutch resident to buy it for you with a small fee, say €1 a gram.
Then it occurred to me that many places allow smoking, but don’t actually sell weed themselves. If those places had a couple of guys who offered to go get the weed for the foreigners for that small fee, they could also give a cut to the establishment in return for letting them conduct their business there.
That sounds like it’d work, right?
Thought I’d write a quick update about what I’ve been up to recently.
So it turns out the best thing about running your own proper business is not only do you have to shell out shitloads for an accountant, but your workload also increases by loads with all the day to day bookkeeping! Ugh. Not only am I now busier than ever, but my work enjoyment density, or average enjoyment per arbitrary amount of work I have to do, has declined. And! This month is when our first year’s accounts have to be completed, as we’ve been a limited company since last October.
(The one benefit to running a limited company is that I have a “company seal” — a little rubber squeezy stamp type thing that imprints “John & Jo’s Coffeesh0p Limited” in any piece of paper that’s had the misfortune to cross my path. Fuck knows what it’s actually for, but it does offer some small comfort at least.)
So today, I’ve been hacking together various scripts and queries to try and automate the drudgery somewhat.
I mentioned it on Twitter, but we went to Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago. I suppose that’s another perk, since the business kindly agreed to pay for it. Hopefully, the Mrs will write up at least some of the trip eventually, but she’s busier than me! I’ll also talk about a related competition-type thing soon…
Anyway, as you’d expect, going away for a week results in mountains and mountains of…
So many emails! I’m still catching up on the work-related ones, and I haven’t had time to reply to anyone that’s emailed me here for literally months. Really sorry if you’ve been in touch and I’ve not had the chance to reply yet. Unless you’ve sent me some kind of hate mail. Then I’m not sorry in the slightest!
The problem with selling more and more stuff is that more and more stuff needs packaging, which often means my fingers are raw from labelling up bags or I’m elbow-deep in kilogram sacks of miscellaneous entheogen; tissue rammed up my nose as a pre-emptive strike against the inevitable green snot or uncontrollable sneezing. On the upside, we’ve recently had our first few wholesale orders of Meen Green, which is doing way better than we ever could have expected.
Not only have I got a boxful of products not yet on Coffeesh0p, but we’re also just about to release a new solid, crumbly incense. It’s seriously amazing, and it’s good to go, I just haven’t had enough time in the day to finally get it on the site!
The thing with new products is, it’s not just uploading data from the supplier into a database; it’s quite a bit more effort. There’s the usual stuff like pricing and other boring data like what category they’ll reside in, where abouts in the category they should go or what other products to recommend, but the biggest tasks are writing descriptions that are both interesting and, most importantly, honest, without straying into hyped-up marketing bullshit talk, and sorting out the images. I’ve seen loads of sites in this industry just robbing crappy lo-res pics off other competing sites, or using the same stock photo from the supplier as everyone else, but where’s the fun in that?! To get a decent pic up along side the product description, the first step is trying to take a decent photo of it. This usually involves me running madly between rooms on a quest to achieve the perfect lighting (impossible in this house), commandeering the tiny bathroom mirror to capture the maximum amount of photons, laying down sheets of white paper to make a plain background and fudging together little supports to keep it in all place. When I’ve finally taken a half decent picture, then I have to photoshop the crap out of it.
Before your feathers get all ruffled and you start declaring shenanigans, my goal is to make the digital image actually look like the product in real life. That’s it. I don’t have a proper studio or mega expensive camera — as I said, I take all the product pictures round the house, using printer paper for a backdrop in dim light. Most pictures start out looking dull, covered in a murky orange haze, so I mainly tinker with the levels, contrast, saturation — that sort of thing — and then try and cut out the background so it’s completely white. For products with actual packaging, I might straighten them up, as if I’d taken the picture precisely above it, or I might get rid of the natural, terrible shadow and replace it with something slightly more uniform. I also like having a couple of images for each product, so that process needs repeating for each image, then, finally, I need to cut out a suitable thumbnail to display on category pages and search results.
I might actually write a full post about doing product pics, like a step by step guide, so you can see the improvements and how little mischief I’m really up to. Which brings me to my final point…
My last post already talked about all the behind-the-scenes stuff I’ve been up to, but I’ve also got a few half finished posts I’ve been meaning to get done, as well as ideas for a million more.
So, yeah, don’t start to think I’ve lost interest, or can’t be arsed replying to you. We’re both in this for the long haul!
Or rather a change of pace, a change of content and a change of design.
So far, I’ve mainly written articles with the primary intention of presenting “the facts”, even if you do have to distil them from the murky casserole of terrible jokes, swearing and catpix. These kinds of posts might be about a pharmacological process, a recipe, tek, or perhaps an update on a news story or developing situation, and I’ve tried to write something about once every week or two. The problem is, these kind of posts usually require all sorts of crazy shit like “forethought” and “reading stuff”. It’s not that I’m incapable of such bizarre activities, it’s just that I’ve often got more to say than the time it would take to say it properly. I’ve always felt it necessary to try and cover as much of a topic as I can, while trying to present it nicely as possible, but that level of effort means I can only be arsed only have the time to write articles like that sporadically. As a result, I’ve ended up not bothering to write about a number of interesting topics that perhaps weren’t that big of a deal because there’s not enough time in the day to cover them all “properly”. So, I quit.
Hah. Only joking.
I’m going to try blogging a bit more casually instead. The plan is to write shorter posts, perhaps not going into all the details, or considering all eventualities, or whatever. I might be more likely to just quote the odd article, for instance, or maybe just write down my opinions on something. The upshot is I’m hoping to post more frequently about a broader range of subjects, so everyone’s a winner! That is, unless you hate what I have to say, in which case, why haven’t you fucked off yet?
I’m not giving up writing longer posts altogether though. Far from it! In fact, writing more posts in general will probably encourage me, and I’ve had a few topics in mind for ages.
The next thing I’m changing is the blog’s design.
No, nothing that amazing, don’t panic, just a few tweaks here ‘n’ there to find what works best for the largest amount of people. And I’m going to do it with science!
For a while now, I’ve been thinking how long the blog takes to load, especially the front page, and especially for new users with an empty cache. Shaving off a second or two doesn’t sound like a big deal, but you’d be surprised on how much of an impact the speed of a website can have, but it affects almost everything, such as how long people stay on the site, how many pages they view in that visit, how likely it is they’ll pass your link around, how likely it is they’ll buy something and how much they’ll spend (for ecommerce sites) and potentially where the site will rank in Google.
Have a look at some more graphs ‘n’ charts to see just how much those few seconds matter.
I’ve already gone through the entire blog and compressed the fuck out of every single image, shaving off an entire megabyte in total, but only a fraction of those images are on the front page. Luckily, there’s a few things I can do that will specifically affect the front page:
That last one I’ve already covered, so what about the first three design-related options? Obviously, they’d all reduce load time, and, if I went as far as displaying only the one post’s headline and first three letters with zero images, load time would be minimal, but then no one would stick around anyway. A site needs to be fast, but it still needs some content to keep people engaged.
To find the most effective trade-off, I’ve set up a little experiment… In the marketing biz, it’s called a split test, and it works something like this:
You create several different versions of something — it could be an entirely different page layout or design, or it could be as simple as placing a little button in different places on the same page — and then you randomly assign each visitor to one particular variation (making sure they always see the same variation on subsequent visits). Then you just sit back and watch the data pour in.
After a while, you can then start to compare how each group of visitors behave. Version #3 might keep people on the site for twice as long, but version #2 might see people return thrice as often. When enough data has been collected, hopefully a victor will emerge.
Yesterday, I created six versions of the front page and got the experiment under way. Here are the details:
|V1||10 full posts are displayed — this is how it’s been for everyone up to now, so this is the control|
|V2||8 full posts|
|V3||6 full posts|
|V4||Latest two posts displayed in full, next two are max 1300 characters, next two are max 800, rest are 500 max — 15 posts in total|
|V5||Same as above, but 20 posts (so more of the 500 character excerpts at the bottom)|
|V6||20 posts again, but only first post in full, next two 1300 characters max, next five 800 max, rest 500 max|
Anything that’s not a full post won’t have any images in it either, and older pages (there’s a link to older posts at the bottom of the front page) will display the same as the last post on the front page, so older pages of V1-3 will be exactly the same as the front page, while older pages of V4-V6 will have 15 or 20 posts of 500 character excerpts with no images. Also, the excerpt length is approx, and will (hopefully) round off to the nearest whole word.
When it’s clear that one has performed better than the other, I’ll stop the experiment and implement the winning version for all users. Then I’ll probably test something else. Of course, there’s no guarantee one of them will perform any better, in which case, I’ll pick the one I like best. Whatever happens, I’ll let you know, probably via some off-the-cuff scribble of a post.
… Which is what I was hoping this post would be, but it looks like I’ve ended up writing loads again.
As you may remember from my Bachelorette Drinking Game post, we accidentally got addicted to The Bachelorette while on honeymoon and we since watched the rest of the series all the way to the final.
What prompted this post is the fact that Ali, the “bachelorette”, blatantly picked the wrong guy to marry. Basically, she fancied this guy and got rid of the guy who she was better friends with, as being friends is apparently not the best way to start a marriage. Instead, she picked this steaming pile of cliché who continuously struggles to think up the perfect “smooth” response to everything she says. That kind of attitude isn’t exactly maintainable for a lifetime of marriage, so we both felt that this manufactured engagement was bound to end in failure sooner or later.
So I did a bit of research and here’s what I found:
|Season||Outcome||Time to Failure|
|1||No proposal, then broke up||Several months|
|2||Proposed, then broke up||Several months|
|3||Proposed, then broke up||Several months|
|4||No proposal, then broke up||Several months|
|5||No proposal, then broke up||Several months|
|6||Engaged, not sure if they got married, then broke up||Five years!|
|7||No proposal, then on again off again relationship||Two stints of two years|
|8||No proposal, then broke up||Shortly after|
|9||No proposal, then broke up||Several months|
|10||Engaged, called off the engagement but continued relationship then broke up||One month to call off engagement, several months to break up|
|11||No proposal, both women rejected||-|
|12||Proposed, then broke up||Several months|
|13||Proposed, then changed mind and married the runner up||Instantly, but him and runner up still together|
|14||Proposed, then broke up||Several months|
|Season||Outcome||Time to Failure|
|1||Proposed, married||Still together!|
|2||Proposed, then broke up||Several months|
|3||No proposal, both blokes rejected||-|
|4||Proposed, then broke up||Several months|
|5||Proposed, then broke up||Several months|
|6||Engaged …for now||In all likelihood, “several months”|
For The Bachelor, that’s 11 out of 14 seasons that ended in what I’d consider a complete failure. I’d say season 6 was the most successful, leading to a 5 year marriage. Not amazing by a long shot, but definitely the furthest from an abysmal failure. Season 7 was slightly worse, with the couple managing two stints of two years. Worse still, but perhaps not quite in the same league of failure as the rest was season 13, where the bloke ended up marrying the runner up. Yes, they’re still together, but that season was in 2009 — hardly worth getting excited about, right? If you’re wondering why I classify season 11 (everyone rejected) as a failure, well, I’d consider anything other than a long happy marriage a failure for the reasons I’ll set out shortly.
The previous five seasons of The Bachelorette have only given us one success, and based on what we saw from the latest season, I’m not holding out much hope.
I can’t claim that something is a menace to society without giving some reasons, so let’s have a quick think over some of the ways people can end up hurt…
First off, the marriages this program churns out are far more likely to end in divorce compared with the real world. And that’s a downside that only affects the winners. One half of the winning couple also has to be constantly aware of the fact that their new husband or wife was not only seeing multiple partners right up to their engagement, but also will likely see their new spouse with all these different people when they inevitably end up rewatching clips from their series, or having to talk about it for magazines, catch-up shows, etc. This also applies to both sets of parents — one of which will be thinking their child is some kind of whore and the other having to watch their child be systematically cheated on until their engagement.
If that’s how shit it must be for the winners, what’s it like for the losers then? Other than the immediate misery/humiliation resulting from rejection, the whole experience then becomes a massive skeleton-in-the-closet for any future relationships. If you got kicked off the program toward the beginning, you might have come across as an arse or something, but the later you stay on, the more serious your relationship becomes — all of which is meticulously documented for any future girl/boyfriend to watch, if they haven’t seen it already. One guy in this latest series we watched even got a tattoo to commemorate the experience/show any prospective girlfriends just how completely mental he was.
The winners who then get divorced are fortunate enough to receive both sets of crippling disadvantages, as well as then having to actually get a divorce! That’s not like an ex that gets less and less significant the longer you’ve been apart — it’s a legal procedure that you’ll constantly have to declare and explain away to future partners.
To top it all off, this program is being pumped out by a country where around half of its population of over 310 million people oppose gay marriage; one of their reasoning being that it threatens the sanctity of marriage. Funnily enough, it’s this same chunk of the population that claims cannabis will send you mental and wreck your family.
When you compare The Bachelor with the odd joint, suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad…
I’ve almost finished a blog post about everyone’s favourite topic, The Bachelorette, but in the mean time, here’s a picture of us two and Ben Goldacre:
This was taken just after his lecture in Birmingham for the British Science Festival a few weeks ago. For those of you who don’t know who he is, Ben Goldacre is a doctor, writes the Bad Science column in The Guardian every Saturday, runs a blog & forums at BadScience.net and has also released the amazingly unputdownable book …Bad Science.
In my list of 5 Books To Expand Your Mind, this is what I had to say about Bad Science:
Bad Science is your defence against a world of horse crap where everyone is trying to rip you off.
What it’s about: Confused about MMR jabs? Homoeopathy? Crystal healing? Fish oil? Then read this book.
Why it will expand your mind: You’ll learn the simplicity of the scientific method and why it’s so important to the world we live in. It will teach you to think for yourself and apply a healthy dose of scepticism to the next dose of health advice you might hear about from someone trying to sell you something. Not particularly mind expanding on its own, but it has a synergy with all the other books in this list.
There’s also a chapter from the book elsewhere on the blog: The Doctor Will Sue You Now.
The lecture itself was on “Drug Company Bullshit”, describing the various tricks big pharmaceutical companies perform in order to make their results look good, massage bad results or make them disappear entirely. Quite a dry, technical talk really, but what else should two troublemakers like us be doing on a Friday night in Birmingham?
Since science is obviously really important, if you’ve got a minute, please consider signing this petition trying to stop cuts in vital science funding.
Oh, and for anyone wondering about my awesome T-shirt, it has this to say:
Awesome. The pope has arrived in the UK. That’s just what this country needs — a bill to the taxpayer of upwards of £10 million so a paedo-concealin’ old bloke can patronise us all with his outdated moral code and flagrant disregard for human rights, even though only a quarter of us actively support the visit, at a time when science funding is about to face monstrous cuts. Brilliant!
To celebrate, I thought I’d take a look at what the Bible had to say about drugs. Obviously, I’m no theologian, so I’m basing this post on the interpretation given by GotQuestions.org (GQ from now on), who:
Seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by providing biblical, applicable, and timely answers to spiritually-related questions through an internet presence.
Their website looks to be quite a big deal, probably getting over 100,000 pageviews a day, so who better to spiritually guide us on our quest for information? Let’s get started…
The Bible doesn’t have anything to say about drugs explicitly, however drug use is covered within the scope of other, broader teachings.
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
Romans 13:1 – 5
So, that immediately rules out any illegal drug use, lest an “agent of wrath […] bring punishment”, so that’s a “No” to cannabis, LSD, ecstasy, heroin, etc! GQ helpfully offers up this snippet of wisdom, in case we feel the laws are unjust:
Contrary to popular belief [what?!], simply disagreeing with a law does not constitute a license for breaking that law.
Cannabis should be legal, I hear you scream! But what about alcohol and tobacco, I hear you ask? Hypocrisy! Well, our friends at GQ have already thought of that:
Many have argued that marijuana does not warrant prohibition. They contend that smoking pot in defiance of the law is justifiable on these grounds and in light of (what they perceive to be) the hypocrisy of outlawing weed while allowing nicotine and alcohol consumption. Those who argue this point may be sincere in their conviction, but they are mistaken nonetheless. Heartfelt disdain for the law does not justify impunity towards it, as our Lord Himself made clear. While rebuking the Pharisees for turning the Law of Moses into an excessively oppressive yoke, Christ still required His disciples to submit to their unfairly harsh demands (Matthew 23:1 – 36, especially 1 – 4). Dutiful submission to authority and patient perseverance through unjust suffering and/or perceived unfairness (1 Peter 2:18 – 23 [Partly quoted below]) is God’s high standard for us – even if that means having to abstain from marijuana in compliance with “unfair” legislation.
Here’s the coolest bit of the Bible they reference to support their point, so you don’t have to go looking it up:
Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.
1 Peter 2:18 – 19
Right, ok. So breaking the law is bad, no matter how unjust we think it is. Fair enough. Surely then, we can smoke a bit of weed in The Netherlands or enjoy some coca tea in Bolivia, or consume some legal highs? Right? Right?!
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
1 Corinthians 3:16 – 17
Everyone knows drugs are harmful. In fact, here’s an old graph listing 20 different drugs ordered by the harm they cause. You’ve almost definitely seen it before.
Notice how no drug in that graph has a harm rating of zero, and according to GQ:
Beyond stewardship, as Christians, our bodies are not our own. We “have been bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20), not “with perishable things like silver or gold … but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:17 – 19). Having bought us with His own life, Christ has delighted to create in us something entirely new, something somewhat bizarre. By indwelling us with His Spirit, He has turned us into organic temples of sorts. So now, caring for our health is not just a matter of good stewardship. It is a matter of reverential piety. To pollute or harm our bodies is to desecrate the House of God (1 Corinthians 3:16 – 17 [The bit I quoted earlier]). This is both wondrous and terrifying.
GQ also talk about a number of individual drugs and the damage they cause. Here’s what they have to say about cannabis:
Marijuana, while being the least harmful of all of the illicit drugs, is still potentially lethal. Marijuana enthusiasts (“potheads”) take comfort in the fact that, unlike most other illicit drugs, it is seemingly impossible to fatally overdose on weed by means of normal consumption (i.e. smoking it). But this does nothing to diminish the potentially fatal risks of lung cancer, emphysema, and other forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) caused by marijuana smoke. While marijuana can be ingested without smoking it, thereby eliminating these risks, there still remain negative physiological and psychological consequences including damage to the reproductive system, the immune system, and cognitive ability.
At this point I was wondering what their guidance was on alcohol but they don’t seem to have mentioned it. That’s odd, what with alcohol being ranked fifth most harmful on that graph above. Looks like I’ll have to come to my own conclusions without GQ’s help then! Let me think for a moment…
Ok, got it. In John 2:1 – 11, Jesus turns water into wine:
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
John 2:1 – 11
Crikey, how about that then! If Jesus himself not only condones drinking wine but practically busts out a keg, then alcohol must be the exception to the rule, despite the massive objective harm alcohol causes, right? I know what you’re thinking — one bible quote doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the case. What about other evidence? Well, there’s also the Catholic belief in transubstantiation, which:
means the change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of the Body and Blood (respectively) of Christ in the Eucharist, while all that is accessible to the senses (accidents) remains as before.
Wikipedia on Transubstantiation
For starters, that’s what Catholics literally believe. The wine they use in church has *literally* become the blood of Christ, despite appearing to be wine and retaining all the properties of the wine, including alcohol content. The fact that Catholics not only drink this fortified Jesus-elixir routinely, and also that wine was selected by Christ to represent/become/whatever his blood both support my conclusion that alcohol is fiiiiiiine compared with the rest of the evil drugs, according to the bible and common church practice.
As I mentioned previously though, I’m no theologian, so I welcome other people’s thoughts on my conclusion in the comments.
Here are some final words of wisdom from my spiritual guides at GQ, this time on addiction:
As for drug addiction, not all illicit drugs are physically addictive. Nevertheless, they are all psychologically addictive. While most people are familiar with physical addiction – the progressive condition whereby the human body becomes physically dependent upon a drug in order to function properly – psychological addiction is less well-known. Psychological addiction is an enslavement of the mind, often characterized by obsessive tendencies and a lack of desire to quit. While physical addiction brings the body into subjection, psychological addiction brings the will into submission. Users tend to say things like, “I could quit if I wanted to, but I just don’t want to.” This attitude tends to ensure a long-term pattern of drug use whereby users become devotees in defiance of a very poignant biblical principle. The fact is, no one can wholeheartedly serve two masters (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13). Any time spent kneeling before the god of drugs [Best god freakin’ ever!!1] is time spent with your back towards the God of the Bible.
Finally, be sure to take a look at what neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris has to say about Religion & Drugs.
Here’s the link to the GQ page I’ve been quoting from, so you can bask in its glory.
Not that there are any points, but bonus points for backing up what you say with peer reviewed research. Please keep the discussion scientific. You can talk about dodgy vendors if you must, especially if there’s a bad batch going round, but please don’t link to them or turn this into a customer support thread. If you want to talk about individual smoking mixtures, please do so Here.